The summer is drawing to a close and for many that means it’s time for children to head back to school. While most parents have a lot on their minds this time of year between purchasing new clothes and supplies, organizing transportation schedules, and generally making sure that everyone is where they need to be, when they need to be there, it may be worth taking a little extra time to pay attention to your child’s hair as well. Although hair loss in children is a relatively uncommon phenomenon, it does account for an estimated 3% of all pediatric office visits in the United States, and usually it can be minimized or even avoided completely by catching issues early. At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we are constantly researching all forms of hair loss, even those that occur in children. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we hear about children’s hair loss.
Can tightly biding hair styles cause long-term hair loss?
In some cases, yes, hair styles that twist or pull on the hair, like elaborate braids, tight pigtails, or even “man-buns”, can place stress on developing hair shafts and follicles. Over time, this tension can result in a condition called traction alopecia, where the hair thins noticeably along the front and sides of the scalp. The effects of traction alopecia are almost always temporary, particularly in the case of younger and more resilient scalps, and can be reversed simply by avoiding the types of hairstyles that cause the damage and allowing the hair to fall in looser, more natural configurations.
Can lice cause permanent damage to my child’s hair?
Lice are a relatively common problem, affecting an estimated 6 million to 12 million children between the ages of three and eleven every year. Contrary to popular belief, personal hygiene or cleanliness in the home or school has nothing to do with getting head lice and children no longer need to be sent home immediately from school whenever lice are noted. Head lice are extremely contagious, but only between heads that are in immediate physical proximity or between children that share bedding, towels, combs, brushes, headwear or helmets. Fortunately, lice can be eliminated via any one of several different methods, do not carry any other diseases, and cannot cause permanent hair loss.
Can stress and anxiety cause a child’s hair to fall out?
Although it is rare in young children, it is possible that a significant and sudden change in the body’s chemistry can disrupt the hair’s natural growth cycle, a condition known as telogen effluvium. Normally this disruption, which pushes an abnormally large number of hair follicles into the shedding, or telogen, phase all at once, is the result of physical trauma, like a car crash or major surgery, but significant emotional stress like the death of a loved one can prompt changes in eating and sleep patterns that the body can interpret as dangerous stress, resulting in the same symptoms. Telogen effluvium is usually only temporary. Because the hair follicles are not damaged, the natural cycle of growth and shedding returns to normal after the stress has passed.
What causes itching, extensive flaking, and hair loss in round or oval patches?
Among the most common causes of hair loss in young children is tinea capitis, commonly known as ringworm of the scalp, a contagious superficial fungal infection of the skin. Although transmitted in much the same way as lice, tinea capitis is potentially more serious as it can, if left untreated, potentially cause scarring of the scalp that may result in permanent hair loss. However, if it is caught early, the condition can be very effectively treated with prescription anti-fungal medications, and in the rare case that permanent hair loss does occur, hair transplantation surgery can help restore a more normal and balanced appearance.
If you or someone you love is experiencing hair loss and would like to learn more about what we can do for you, please contact The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration to schedule a consultation. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to get the latest news in hair restoration and research.